NEWSMAKER-Albanians in Australia bet on working class brand to restore Labor to power
By Byron Kaye
SYDNEY, May 9 (Reuters) – When Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese was just 12, he says he helped organize a rent strike that blocked the sale of his mother’s council housing in promoters.
His Labor Party’s poll-favored campaign to oust Prime Minister Scott Morrison in this month’s general election highlights the bona fides of the Albanese working class and its image as a pragmatic unifier, in hoping to avoid the divisive political debates that eroded his lead in the last national poll.
But that cautious stance, relying heavily on his humble beginnings and long years of public service, ran into unexpected risks on the campaign trail, where the media focused on perceived political blunders when details were lacking. on his party’s unemployment rate and disability insurance. plan.
“I was a little surprised that he didn’t seem so prepared at the very start for the intensity of a campaign,” said John Phillimore, executive director of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy.
“But there’s the campaign and there’s ‘what is the person’s ability to be in government?’ As a style of governance, he would probably have a pretty strong team approach.”
Albanese, 59, entered parliament in 1996 – just as Labor entered the first of two decade-long patches in opposition. The party’s return to power, from 2007 to 2013, was marred by leadership disputes in which it openly criticized both sides.
These years forged his reputation as a collaborator willing to work across ideological lines, as House Leader where he handled government business in parliament.
After losses in the 2010 election, Labor found itself struggling with the country’s first minority government in 70 years, forcing it to win the support of the Conservatives or Independents to pass legislation. But according to a measure cited by political commentators – the number of laws passed relative to the number of days in office – it has proven to be Australia’s most productive parliament.
“There was an attempt to create chaos, but what Anthony did was make sure the government’s job continued,” said Craig Emerson, who was trade minister in that government.
Those who know Albanese say he is genuinely driven by the mix of pragmatism and concern for social justice he acquired during his childhood struggles, such as when he complained to a councilor about the stove broke from his mother when he was a teenager.
“It gave me the determination, every day, to help people like me, growing up, have a better life,” Albanese told the National Press Club in January, recalling how he sometimes depended on his neighbors to help himself. to feed when her mother, who was relying on a disability pension, was unable to provide for her.
Morrison, the Conservative prime minister, rarely refers to his middle-class suburban upbringing.
INSTINCT OF CAUTION
Adding to cautious instincts on both sides ahead of the May 21 election, leaders fear scaring off voters by talking about major policy changes at a time when the pandemic, war, inflation, climate change and a China of increasingly assertive voices have left voters eager to reassure.
Opinion polls showed Labor still holding a single-digit lead in the polls, but three years ago Labor blew a similar lead, and polls also show Morrison is slightly more popular than ‘Albanese.
The media picked up on Albanese’s stumbles over policy details and forgot about the jobless rate on the first day of the six-week campaign, undermining his credibility as Labor vows to improve job security employment for casual workers and creating hundreds of thousands of green energy roles in the transition. away from fossil fuels.
However, the government has also gotten bad press in the Conservative Party’s traditional areas of strength – national security and the economy – hit first by the Solomon Islands signing a security pact with China and then by the first interest rate hike in more than a decade, due to soaring inflation.
Meanwhile, a growing number of climate-concerned voters in affluent Sydney and Melbourne neighborhoods have embraced environment-focused independent candidates in traditionally Tory seats, suggesting that neither party could win a absolute majority and evoking the prospect of another minority government.
For Albanese, succession as prime minister would cap a career that began with his childhood rent strike and involvement in student politics, when he studied economics as the first in his family to attend the ‘university.
At 22, he was elected chairman of Young Labour, the party’s youth wing, and worked as a research officer under the economic reformist government of Bob Hawke, the longest-serving Labor Prime Minister.
“Anthony has… an ability to look beyond party political alignment,” said Robert Tickner, a former Labor member who answered the Albanian teenager’s call about his mother’s stove.
“(He) believes in this idea that there are people of goodwill in the community,” Tickner said in a phone interview. “It’s not someone who is bigoted.” (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Edmund Klamann)